HYATTSVILLE – The future of transportation and traffic in Hyattsville is under review as the city begins to look at what changes will be needed as the municipalities continues to grow.
Katie Gerbes, Hyattsville’s community planner, said the transportation study is a joint effort between the city’s department of public works and the department of community and economic development to look at multimodal transit in the city. Hyattsville hired Toole Design Group to conduct the study.
“Toole has been hired to take a comprehensive look at multimodal transit within the city and provide recommendations on ways we can improve traffic as well as increase accessibility for our pedestrians and our cyclist throughout the city,” Gerbes said.
Sagar Onta, a senior traffic engineer from Toole Design Group, said the main focus of the study is to create a holistic sequential action plan that will help the city make decisions and implement projects and programs successfully.
To do this, Onta said his firm will look at the bicycle and pedestrian needs of the city as well as evaluating the current and future roadway needs, evaluating traffic calming, one-way streets, parking issues and school traffic.
“We are collecting a lot of traffic counts and you might see some cameras up,” he said. “We have identified about 34 intersections around the city to collect some counts and to look at future growth.”
The project officially started in June, but Onta said the contract waited until school opened in September to get accurate traffic counts. Toole said the project is just now ramping up in collecting all the traffic counts. The contractor expects to have a full overview of the city’s “existing conditions” this fall.
Toole will be using a number of strategies to gather Hyattsville residents’ input and opinions regarding traffic, including a WikiMap page in both English and Spanish. The online map is available for residents to directly point to issues they see in transportation in the city.
“It is an online map that you can draw and write comments on all the transportation issues you are facing as a resident, as a business owner. It asks for where the bicycle issues you see, where are the pedestrian issues you see, the parking issues you see, where are the traffic issues you see. All those inputs, you can input there and once we take that in, we’ll address those as part of this project,” Onta said.
The first community engagement session took place on Sept. 20, but City Administrator Tracey Nicholson said it was just “one of many” anticipated in the study. A second listening session is schedule for spring 2018.
A draft sequential action plan is anticipated in the winter with the full draft plan expected next spring.
Onta said the final plan will also include wayfinding measures for the city to employ, which Councilwoman Shani Warner asked about during Toole’s presentation to the council on Sept. 18.
Warner said she wanted to know more about what wayfinding entailed.
“I’m not sure that I understand what that is,” she said.
Wayfinding, Onta said, revolves around signs in the city and how effective they are in pointing residents and visitors in the right direction. That could include parking signs, signs for one way streets and traffic movement.
“It is making sure that there is a consistent design. At the end of the project, what we will have is a template for different types of signs and then a plan that says where these different types of signs should go,” he said. “This will be for parks, schools and some of the city services. That will be part of the plan.”
Council Vice President Kevin Ward asked that, while the study is ongoing, council be informed of steps taken and of any updates. He said he wants the council to be aware of current issues as they are found so they are not hit with all the information at one time and can stay more informed.
Ward also wanted to know how data would be collected, and if the study would just be looking at how people travel within the city or would it include how people travel to the city.
Onta said the cost of the study would rise significantly if Hyattsville wanted to know from where and how many people travel into the city from other locations. Gerbes added that the study will not show where visitors came from or are going, but will show how they utilized roads in Hyattsville.
“We won’t know necessarily if they are in Silver Spring or if they’re in Rockville or if they’re downtown, but we will be able to get a sense of where they’re going at what times of day, as far as in or out and within the city. All of those trips will have exact locations,” she said.
As the project moves forward, Councilman Robert Coslin said he wants to make sure the city does everything it can to include residents in the process. He asked Gerbes if she felt the city had done enough to inform residents about the study.
She replied that the city had used all the resources at its disposal to get the word out and that the traffic study WikiMap is on the city’s SpeakUp page for resident feedback and is available anytime online.